Tribute to Robert Hartman

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Tribute to Robert Hartman

By Norm Hirst

Our theoretical research began in 1956 when I met Robert Hartman, a visiting professor at MIT. Hartman was a philosopher developing formal axiology. He believed that knowledge developed through philosophical exploration until philosophy ultimately gave birth to a new science. There had been value philosophy, called axiology, since Plato. Hartman believed the time was now right for the transition to science. Knowing that science required inquiry by formalisms, such as mathematics, he called his work formal axiology. To illustrate the crisis of our time he would point out that if we could bring Plato back to life he would understand our books on values, but our books on science he would find quite bewildering. Our power through science goes far beyond our development of wisdom to understand the consequences of what we do.

I often think of Hartman as the Galileo of value. Galileo established a relation between motion and the arithmetic order of finite numbers with his simple equation “distance = speed x time” Today we know that. But that became the basis for Newton to develop the infinitesimal calculus to determine the effects of motion, the law of gravity and what we call today Newtonian physics. Newtonian physics clearly separated from philosophy as the first science.

Hartman established a relationship between values and numbers including transfinite numbers; transfinite numbers being orders of infinity. He did this by defining “good” as the fulfillment of conceptual intensions, i. e. meaning. On this basis he developed a value calculus. Based on the calculus he developed a test of value vision.

Years ago professors of psychology gave me hell over the test. They said it was not based on enough statistics. I explained that it was, instead, based on a formal order of values. It consists of two lists of 18 items, one list testing the testee’s ability to perceive values in the world and the second list how well they perceive values in themselves. The testees have to rank order all 18 items in each list. The test is scored on calculations based on how the testee departs from the formal order. The test has been validated in every conceivable way showing it to be a very powerful instrument.

Hartman died in 1973. Following his death The Hartman Institute was formed at the University of Tennessee.

Today many business consultants are using the Hartman Value Profile. In addition a psychologist, Dr. Leon Pomeroy, who was for many years president of the Hartman Institute, used the Harman Value Profile in his clinical practice for 20 years. He has now published a book, “The New Science of Axiological Psychology”. Read more at

I feel blessed that Robert Hartman became my friend and mentor for many years and has been an inspiration for this work.